The University of Utah baseball team is in Arizona for the Pac-12/Big 10 Challenge. Utah (2-1) will face the Ohio State Buckeyes (2-2) and the Nebraska Huskers (1-1). On Thursday Utah will meet Ohio State on the field at 5 p.m. MT and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. MT. Utah and Nebraska will battle it out on Friday at 5 p.m. MT, and it will close out its weekend with a final game on Sunday at 1 p.m. MT.
Utah won two of the three games on the road to open its season last week at CSU Bakersfield. Ohio State kicked off its opening weekend with victories against Kansas State and Delaware, but it fell short to Pittsburgh and Kansas State in the end. Nebraska took on UC Riverside in what was supposed to be a four-game series, but game three and four got rained out.
Many Utes kicked off the opening weekend by putting up some impressive numbers. Looking to make another big impact this weekend is third baseman Dallas Carroll and outfielder Chandler Anderson. Over opening weekend Carroll hit .667 with eight hits, three doubles and three RBIs. In game three Carroll had two doubles and two RBIs. Anderson hit .615 with eight hits, two doubles and four RBIs, and he had multiple hits in each game.
Utah has some new faces and talent that have joined the program, and many of them made their career debuts during that three-game series. Utes like Jacob Rebar, Oliver Dunn, Alex Isola, Connor McNally, Dominic Foscalina and Jake Portaro saw time on the field. Rebar, who is projected to start on the mound on Thursday, is coming off a strong showing where he pitched the final four innings of game two and earned the win in relief.
“Jacob Rebar was outstanding, four innings pitched, one hit, nine strikeouts was an unbelievable accomplishment,” said head coach Bill Kinneberg. “Alex Isola had a great game on Sunday as far as catching goes. Oliver Dunn was very good in his freshman debut for the weekend. Most of them got in so that’s a good thing, and they’ll be more relaxed the next time.”
Coming off a 15-3 victory against CSU Bakersfield, Kinneberg said he does not expect his team to score 15 runs in these games against these Big 10 schools. Utah will face better pitching in Ohio State and Nebraska then what they saw last weekend in California.
“It’ll be more of a challenge for our hitters,” Kinneberg explained.
These ballgames will be an opportunity for Utes not only to step up and deliver but also to begin improving and fixing areas that are not as sharp as they could be. With three games under its belt, Utah has more of an idea about improvements that need to be made and what areas need to be worked on and strengthened. Utah will have the opportunity to do so this weekend.
“We need to get better at game situations,” Kinnenberg said. “Each at bat needs to get a little bit better. The focus on the mound maybe needs to get a little bit better.”
Utah is currently in that stage of figuring out player’s roles and will remain so for the next few weeks. These upcoming games in Arizona will be the place for Utes to show what they are capable of contributing to a team that wants to win. In an environment that will be loud and competitive, these four ball games are sure to be exciting matchups.
“They should be great baseball games if we play our game,” Kinneberg said. “Those are two very good ball clubs, both regional clubs last year, so it’ll be a good weekend and a good test for us.”